By Raymond F. Angelini, Ph.D.
Turmoil and stress in relationships can happen at anytime, but tensions often run higher during the holiday season. With the different expectations each person has about the season, increased financial pressure and physical demands, it’s no wonder that conflicts are bound to arise.
We often expect the holidays to be a time of celebration with friends and family. However, the holidays invariably bring the unwelcome guests of stress and depression along with them. According to a recent Dateline NBC and Prevention Magazine poll, 41percent of us find the holiday season to be “somewhat” or “very stressful.” But, on a positive note, one of the best things about holiday stress is that it is predictable. Unlike the stress we encounter in life that catches us off guard, holiday stress has a definite beginning and ending; therefore we can reduce the negative impact it can have on us. The following are 10 tips I have used myself and with my clients over the years to help minimize holiday stress:
Decide beforehand what traditions and activities are most important to you and make sure you set time aside for these. One of the major stresses of the holiday season is overactivity, and eliminating activities that are not really important is essential to reducing stress.
We simply cannot do it all. Many of us run ourselves ragged trying to do all the things we believe we have to do. For example, if you simply cannot stand the idea of not baking, do so, but on a smaller scale. It won’t kill you to buy baked goods from a bakery or the grocery store. In fact, you will likely find that with respect to holiday activities, less is often more in terms of improving your overall holiday experience.
3. Take time out
The holiday season is often such a frenzied time we fail to “take time and smell the holly”, so to speak. Be sure to allow yourself sufficient downtime, otherwise you are likely to find yourself exhausted and drained rather than joyous and fulfilled.
4. Be understanding
Try to be tolerant of each other’s mood swings during the holidays. Try to accept family members and friends as they are rather than how you would like them to be. Strive to be extra tolerant, for our family members and friends are probably feeling the effects of holiday stress too!
5. Be proactive
Strive to plan ahead and set aside specific times for baking, shopping, visiting friends and family, etc. This will help you avoid the stress often associated with doing things at the last minute. Also, allow extra time for everything so that inevitable delays and snafus won’t add to your stress.
6. Set limits
Learn to say no. Most of us are asked to do more during the holiday season than we are the rest of the year. The magic of “no” can greatly reduce holiday stress.
7. Continue healthy habits
Don’t stop going to the gym or eating right during the holidays. Most often, it is our healthy habits that fall by the wayside during the holidays. Try at all costs to avoid this. Once the holidays are over, you’ll be very glad that you did.
8. Exercise financial restraint
It is very easy to overspend during the holidays. Setting and sticking to a budget when it comes to holiday spending can greatly reduce stress, especially when those credit card bills come rolling in during January.
9. Have realistic expectations
As we change and grow, so must our holiday traditions. What was possible when we were 25 may no longer be when we are 60. Strive to maintain as many of your cherished holiday traditions as possible, but also be open to starting new traditions, which can be just as rewarding and memorable.
10. Let go of perfectionism
Remember, the holidays were not invented by Hallmark or Martha Stewart! Real life holidays usually bear little resemblance to those portrayed on television or in the movies. Expect and accept imperfections, because they will surely show up. Remember, the best gift you can give your family and friends is your presence, not your presents! This is the best formula I know of for a happier and healthier holiday.
Dr. Raymond Angelini of New Horizons Coaching has been in private practice for over 15 years in Saratoga Springs and specializes in assisting individuals in finding and sustaining careers that are more rewarding, life enhancing and in keeping with one’s personal and spiritual values. For more information, pleases feel free to visit www.newhorizonscoaching.com or email Dr. Angelini at firstname.lastname@example.org.